Raphaelle Mathieu, Cyber Group Studios’ senior VP of sales, acquisitions and new media, talks to TV Kids about the launch of the free YayToons app and the company’s international expansion.
Earlier this year, Cyber Group Studios revealed the launch of YayToons, a free app that features content for children ages 3 to 8. It is but one example of the ways in which the company is growing its digital business. International expansion, as a whole, is also top of mind for Cyber Group.
TV KIDS: What’s guiding the current business development strategy?
MATHIEU: Right now, our mantra is definitely about international and digital expansion. As I like to say, our business grows both regionally and on a worldwide basis. Our aim is to find the best partners around the globe and to develop the company as much as possible, at the right pace, both on a corporate level and on an editorial one. In that perspective, co-productions are a first step to building strong relationships internationally and hopefully extend them to a bigger type of partnership. Pierre Sissmann and Dominique Bourse, the original founders of Cyber Group Studios, have made this international growth a priority. It is frankly very inspiring to work closely with them and to be compelled to think outside of the box—always!
Now that we have opened our office in Los Angeles, and we are lucky enough to have Richard Goldsmith as our partner in the U.S., North American development is paramount for the company, and we are exploring expansion in the U.S. and Canada. But this is not all; Russia is a key territory for us as well. First of all, the country has a historical culture of animation, and for the last five years there has been an impressive jump in quality companies. Our latest agreement with the historic studios of Soyuzmultfilm is a very important milestone for us, and we believe that this can be an important step for both companies. Last but not least, we are very actively working on a strategic partnership in China that we hope to announce soon.
TV KIDS: How is Cyber Group expanding its focus on digital?
MATHIEU: The market is changing tremendously, and it will change even more within the next five years. If today digital is rather synonymous with YouTube, I believe that other platforms will develop much more than is the case right now. Children must be able to access programs in a safe environment. YouTube has started this shift with YouTube Kids and other platforms are now growing. OTT platforms, in that regard, are a big part of this shift, and we are part of it too, thanks to our first CGS channel on OTT, YayToons, launched via our deal with Future Today in the U.S.
On the content front, we are aiming to produce content inspired from our existing programs and brands as well as original content for YouTube. To address this, we are very happy to be working with WildBrain to define the best strategy for our channels on YouTube and YouTube Kids and with YoBoHo to focus on producing new original content for the digital market.
TV KIDS: What are the synergies you’re tapping into between TV, gaming and licensing?
MATHIEU: I believe the recent acquisition of Entertainment One by Hasbro is an illustration that the link between programs and licensing is more important than ever. Channels need content, content makes brands and brands make toys and games. We are right now working on an ecosystem that would see TV channels or services, gaming companies and licensing companies being fundamentally interested from scratch by each other’s successes. For that, we are working on innovative solutions together with Dominique Bourse and Thierry Braille, former Disney exec, who joined the company last year and thanks to whom we have signed key deals for Gigantosaurus and Zorro.
TV KIDS: What are the priorities you’re focusing on for the year ahead?
MATHIEU: International and external growth together with digital content and strategy are our focus—there’s a lot coming up for 2020!